Recruitment & Retention In Retail 2016

Recruitment & Retention in Retail 2016

As I mentioned in an article earlier this week, I read a lot for work and oftentimes I find bits and pieces of information take up residence in my brain and then ultimately, I find it creates a topic that is interesting and relevant to the retail industry and my organization. Today’s article is totally a cohesive conglomeration of interesting things that I have read over the past few days that have inspired thought around recruitment and retention topics inside retail organizations.


I recently read a great article on LinkedIn with a wonderful image attached to it that outlined the top recruitment priorities that are most important to sourcing and identifying candidates to fill specific roles. Interestingly the top three priorities revolve around a person’s soft-skills. Here is what it looks like top to bottom:


(1) Execution Ability
(2) Motivation/Hungriness
(3) Cultural Fit
(4) Personality
(5) Professionalism
(6) Articulation
(7) Prior Employers
(8) GPA
(9) Educational Institutions
(10) Prior Titles

This graph is general to recruitment and hiring practices – not industry specific – but I agree with the importance of 8/10 of these key skills to determine potential fit of candidates. However, only 2/10 of these things are included on a black and white resume. You can’t set up Applicant Tracking System [ATS] queries to scrub for behaviors or the soft-skills of candidates.


We know that most hires (70%) are made through employee referrals, social recruiting or you know someone who knows someone – these interactions do not have an ATS acting as a virtual gatekeeper and, through friends or Social Media the sourcer can better understand the candidate as a person, as opposed to a black and white attachment. The other day, however, I did see a wonderful tool posted on LinkedIn by Zarina Afridi, PHR, SHRM-CP that essentially “optimizes your resume keywords and get past resume screeners”.

There are retail companies that are currently seeking talent that claim that every resume is screened by an actual person a for potential match to the job posting. I did recently submit a resume to one of these open positions [after all, I am actively seeking a new role]. I made sure to include all relevant experience, keywords, my blog link, etc. I submitted my resume to a role that I have lots of experience and tremendous results in. Perfect cover letter…the whole nine yards. Knowing that soft-skills are critical to hiring the right person, I hope that my blog delivers some additional insight into my personal passion, skills, motivation, professionalism in retail [aka – my “soft skills”: motivation, hungriness, personality, professionalism, articulation] I, as I look at the metrics/analytics of my blog daily was hoping to see that someone from that organization visited – they did not. Nor did they research me on LinkedIn – where I also include on my summary page a full workplace/leadership assessment whitepaper that includes all of my amazing personality traits, along with some opportunity qualities,  I possess [In the assessment it says that I am stubborn but I refuse to believe that]. Despite my efforts,  yesterday or the day before I received the disheartening “thanks but no thanks” form email from them. [I am in good company though – here is some fun reading…10 REJECTION LETTERS SENT TO FAMOUS PEOPLE]. Maybe it’s my bruised ego but I do suspect they use ATS. But…giving them the benefit of the doubt, even though “people” review these one, two, or three page attachments of what I imagine is every variation of resume template that is out there – they can’t or are unwilling to take the steps to learn about the candidate that they want to fill that role. Here is a great article along those same lines from Sara Nadel, Founder & CEO, StellarEmploy, “I Was Rejected For An Hourly Job At Target. These Are My Thoughts”. Ms. Nadel’s article is really helpful as well as it re-focuses the candidates on what their opportunities are  to communicate their value in a stronger sense than what they currently communicate.

Understanding that what makes a candidate most desirable is identifying their softer-skills – it is definitely is time for the retail industry to revise the practice of sourcing candidates and using tools other than the antiquated ATS to allow potential matches to stand out through the key qualities that are found to be most importnat. When the job market became soft in 2008 people had to move around, they experienced other industries, they have employments gaps, they’ve taken professional steps back in some cases. Utilizing ATS to scrub resumes for job role fits based on previous employers, lengths of employment, etc. is not going to net retail organizations the full range of ideal and competent candidates that are available and on the market today, either passive or active candidates.

How Do We Bring The Human Element To Recruitment/Sourcing?

In my work background, recruitment and candidate sourcing has been a huge part of my job role. I was very fortunate in my last company to pull us from the dark-ages of ATS scrubbing to a better way to accept resumes to job postings in partnership with an assessment company and have a small, but very valuable “questionnaire” that was filled out in conjunction with the submission of a resume for open roles inside our organization.  The assessment helped us to identify applicants that had some of the soft-skills present to warrant additional research/screenings and it allowed us to eliminate those that did not possess the probability of a fit for the role and the culture of our company. It also helped us identify potential candidates whose outlook was short-term and not career driven which would have impacted retention significantly. The system then pulled together the qualities/traits/soft-skills identified which cut down resume screening by 11% compared to when we were using ATS.


Ironically today, on ERE Media, they shared a very useful article by John Zappe titled “Test Are Better At Hiring Than You“.  Here are some of my biggest take-aways:

• “Firms can improve worker quality by limiting managerial discretion. This is because, when faced with similar applicant pools, managers who exercise more discretion (as measured by their likelihood of overruling job test recommendations) systematically end up with worse hires.”

• “Now, in a research paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the evidence shows that at least for low-skilled work, assessment testing improves job tenure by 15%.  Human intervention, the researchers found, was strongly correlated with poorer results.”

There are a couple things that are critical to filling roles in retail with right-fit talent and for a long-term career outlook:
-Managing time to fill to a reasonable amount of time (no more than two weeks);
-Utilize Social Recruiting and compelling employee referral programs proactively to identify candidates for the hard to fill roles;
-Use assessments (in lieu of ATS) to determine caliber and soft-skills of candidates;
-Once you hire the best candidate (whatever the source) invest in them, train develop them into being capable of filling future hard to fill roles

In conclusion, I beseech retailers that are truly committed to hiring the right person/people into their companies and into their critical roles to revisit the way you source and solicit applicants. From the job boards you use (that create “alerts” to jobs that the job seekers aren’t qualified for, to including in your job description where some of your best hires have come from [roles and previous companies] to give employees an idea of what background is best suited), to the systems used and the payroll allocated to researching received resumes. There are ways to make this process much more efficient and effective for the candidates and for your organization.


Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail and 18 year retailer. I am a passionate and creative leader and coach committed to inspiring thought, action, truth-telling, solution-seeking, and dialog about how to maximize talent through identifying and creating a process around critical success factors, workplace culture, signature leadership practices, productivity, profitability, alignment of employees and company vision & values, and workplace happiness inside all retail organizations. I help create healthy, vibrant, high-performing, and highly-productive organizations that are talent magnets and focused on delivering the highest level of customer experience that will differentiate them from competition and result in long-term growth and sustainability.

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